The following is a beautiful verse which elucidates how man can achieve liberation while interacting with the world.
विद्या ददाति विनयं विनयाद्याति पात्रताम् ।
पात्रत्वाद्धनमाप्नोति धनाद्धर्मं ततः सुखम् ||
vidyA dadAti vinayam vinayAdyAti pAtratAm
pAtratvAddhanam Apnoti dhanAddharmam tataH sukham
Knowledge gives humility, from humility one attains a worthy character, from a worthy character one gains wealth, from wealth dharma, from that (from dharma) comes happiness.
1. vidyA dadAti vinayam
Knowledge gives humility. Here knowledge does not necessarily mean spiritual knowledge. Any secular knowledge is fully ripened only when the knower has attained humility, be it science, mathematics, arts or economics. If knowledge does not give rise to humility then it gives rise to egoism. Once a person knows more about any subject, then the person comes to know his limitations in respect of space, time and knowledge.
If I do a PhD in Physics; in Astrophysics to be specific; in cosmic rays to be more specific, then, what I am actually leaning is “more of a lesser” area. This means I might end up knowing a lot about cosmic rays and I might submit a thesis (which might be proved wrong by another PhD student, which will be argued upon by another and the chain goes on). So, while I think I know much about that particular subject of mine, I am actually quite alienated in my knowledge because I have distanced myself from the other major part of Astrophysics. Astrophysics itself is just a part of Physics which is just a branch of science, which, in the scheme of things is just one aspect of life, since there is geology, mathematics, arts, literature etc. So I know a little, of a little, of a little….this word can go on. This is why our scriptures say we are limited in knowledge while Ishvara (Lord) is omniscient and omnipotent.
A person who is truly learned in his particular field of study will understand this helplessness and limitedness; accept it gracefully and surrender to Ishvara willfully. This is humility. As opposed to this, if a person becomes egoistic then his knowledge is skin deep, which is used only for the purpose of carrying on life selfishly. Such people do not benefit from their study nor do they become beneficial for others. They are a burden to society and set a wrong example. Hence real knowledge is that which makes a person bloom with humility. Albert Einstein once said “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
2. vinayAt yAti pAtratAm
This humility gives rise to nobility and many positive virtues. Hence a person develops a worthy character. He starts leading an alert life where each word, deed and thought is carefully measured. Someone has rightly said
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Once a person recognizes that Ishvara is karmAdhyaksha (presides over karma) and karmaphaladAta(giver of the fruits of actions) then humbleness is a natural consequence. This humility and acceptance of role of Ishvara and one’s own role in the grand scheme of things makes the person virtuous. He develops great qualities like egolessness, non hurting attitude, fortitude, straight forwardness, patience, forgiveness, charity, purity, service, steadfastness, mind – mastery, equanimity etc. Such a person naturally attracts people and gains their admiration.
3 pAtratvAddhanam Apnoti
Such a person of noble character earns a good position in society. He is well equipped in his own field of study, which he applies in the world and earns money. This is true for any field of study.
4. dhanAt dharmam
Money earned by such a person will not turn him libertine. He will be careful enough not to lead a licentious life. On the contrary, he will use this wealth according to the dictums of the veda. This is indicated by the word dharma.
Dharma has many context- based meanings, but all those meanings, though apparently different boil down to one main definition of right conduct and activity according to the universal order.
Following are the different contexts in which the word is used.
A) vedoSkhilo dharmamUlam – “ The entire Veda is the source of dharma”. Simply put dharma is righteous conduct. The dharma of every human being is right activity which makes a person mature and on having gained this maturity he should seek knowledge.
B) dhAranAt dharma. dharma is derived from the root dhar(dhri) which means sustaining, maintaining. The phenomena because of which something sustains and maintains its nature is dharma. For eg heat in fire, coldness in ice is dharma of fire and ice. Everything is Ishvara because Ishvara is the material cause of the creation. Gold is the material cause of ornaments, hence gold pervades the whole ornament. The whole ornament is nothing but gold. Hence, Ishvara being the material cuase, everything verily is Ishvara. So, the laws of Ishvara and natural phenomena are not separate from Ishvara. Hence dharma is Ishvara. Being dharmik is simply not going against this order of Ishvara.
Hence the 'beingness" is dharma. It is not merely moral conduct and religious duties but it is the essential nature of things.
C) dharma means virtuous conduct and ethical values apart from religious duties. It is the conduct in which I expect others to interact with me; E.g. I would not want to be hurt or would not want to be lied to. So, these values are dharma for me. These values are universal values (sAmanya dharma). It is felt the same way by all unconditionally.
D) The universal values are common to all irrespective of age, sex position etc; e.g. non stealing, non hurting, truthfulness etc. There are certain dharmas which I have to follow in certain situations. This is called particular dharma (visheSha dharma); E.g. violence is not good but a soldier has to take it up to protect the frontiers of his land. Hence, visheSha dharma is different for different people based on age, position, family, clan, community, nation etc. Another example would be that an American citizen has a different duty towards USA which an Indian might not have to do in India and vice versa.
E) svadharma is the duty that one is enjoined to do based on his position and age in society; E.g. the svadharma of a king is to rule the land and give justice and protect his subjects. He cannot do the work of a washerman. In the vedik times, society was functionally classified based on duties. No duty was condidered superior or menial. Every duty and every member had an important place in society. This classification ensured a smooth and moral functioning of society. In this context, dharma can be translated as one’s essential duty.
F) dharma can mean one’s own essential nature. From the highest standpoint, one’s very own nature is truth and infinitude; hence this being our intrinsic nature, this is our dharma.
Whenever there is a decline of this dharma, the Lord incarnates. He incarnates and re-establishes the right way of conduct and activity e.g. incarnations of Lord rAma and kRRiShNa. There are other incarnations like that of Lord dakshiNAmUrti, who incarnated only to safeguard Atma dharma (Atmik knowledge).
In the present day context, dharma can be protected by protecting those who protect dharma and by protecting culture and traditions.
A knowledgeable man of noble character will follow his duty as enjoined by the veda, be virtuous in conduct, following the universal codes, will dedicate all his duties to the Lord being cognizant of the fact that his journey ends with knowledge of Atma only. Hence, he follows karma yoga by leading a dhArmik life style, divinizing all his actions, by dedicating them to the Lord and accepting the fruits of actions as gift from the Lord.
5. tataH sukham
Leading a lifestyle of karma yoga, he prepares his mind by cleaning it of all subtle impurities in the form of attractions and aversions etc. Such a mature, prepared mind is ready for spiritual knowledge. Consequently, the grace of guru, shAstra (scriptures) and Ishvara help one to attain spiritual knowledge. On attaining this Atmik knowledge he attains supreme happiness which is limitless and absolute. This is liberation.
Hence a learned man gains spiritual knowledge and ultimate happiness by leading a diligent, humble life, using the secular knowledge for earning wealth and giving it back to the community, living a life of karma yoga and virtues.